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Orlando City Nabs Fourth-Round Pick for Tony Rocha’s Rights

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Lions declined Rocha’s contract option after the season but picked up a draft pick from NYCFC for his rights.

MLS: Orlando City SC at New England Revolution Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City continues to stockpile low picks in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. The Lions added a fourth-round pick in the upcoming draft from New York City FC in exchange for Tony Rocha’s rights. The club declined Rocha’s contract option after the 2018 season but still retained his MLS rights. The move allows New York City FC to negotiate a new deal with the 25-year-old Texas native.

Rocha is a versatile young player who appeared all over the pitch for Orlando in 2018. He played fullback, center back, defensive midfield and attacking midfield among his career-high 12 appearances (nine starts). He has yet to score his first MLS goal but he did manage three assists last year. He attempted seven shots (two on target) and finished with an impressive 87.8% passing accuracy. Defensively, he averaged 2.4 tackles, 0.9 interceptions, 1.5 clearances, and 0.3 blocks per game. He committed 12 fouls while drawing 20, and picked up one yellow card.

The Lions signed Rocha to an MLS deal in August of 2016 after he’d joined the club on a USL contract with Orlando City B. Since signing his MLS deal, Rocha appeared in 23 games (11 starts) over three seasons. He amassed four assists in 1,142 minutes, playing primarily in the defensive midfield.

The pick coming to the Lions — No. 75 overall — was originally City’s that was sent to NYCFC in the deal that brought goalkeeper Josh Saunders to Central Florida in January of 2017. Orlando City now holds six selections in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft — Nos. 3, 27, 59, 75, 94, and 96.

What This Means for Orlando

Essentially, the Lions picked up what is typically a throw-away draft pick for a player they weren’t re-signing anyway. In that sense, the club got an asset for a player it had already parted ways with, which is a good business decision.

The bigger question is whether Orlando should have re-signed Rocha. He made only $68,901.84 in total compensation in 2018 and even with a modest increase he’s a solid depth player at multiple positions for very little money. Whether he fits what James O’Connor wants to do tactically could have ultimately been the prohibitive factor in bringing him back.

At any rate, the Lions now have six bullets in the chamber for a player acquisition mechanism that doesn’t typically produce a high percentage of viable players. But you never know who might pan out.